Women directors kick off main competition in Cannes
By Andrew McCathie May 12, 2011, 20:27 GMT
Cannes, France - Three women directors helped to kick off the race Thursday for top honours at the Cannes Film Festival.
But each of the films has a very different story to tell, with Australian director Julia Leigh's debut feature movie Sleeping Beauty about a young student who begins working as a prostitute in an establishment where the clients demand that she is knocked out with sleep-inducing drugs.
While French actress-turned-director Maiwenn threw the spotlight on the daily pressures of a Paris police child protection unit, London-born Oscar winner Tilda Swinton stars in Scottish director Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin.
Ramsay's film tells the tale of a mother facing up to guilt and grief after her teenage son goes on a killing spree in suburban middle class America.
In Ramsay's movie, a state of war has existed between mother and son since the day of his birth. 'She has a nightmare every day,' Ramsay told a press conference marking the film's premiere in Cannes. 'I feel that she is on an eternal chain gang.'
Altogether a record four women directors are competing for Cannes' coveted Palme d'Or.
Leading Japanese art filmmaker Naomi Kawase returns to the festival's main competition for the third time with a contemporary drama Hanezu no Tsuki that sets her characters against the backdrop of the sweep of time.
Set in the Asuka region where Japanese culture first started to take shape, Hanezu is to screen next week at the festival.
Two years ago, Kawase won the Cannes' Grand Prix (the festival's second prize) for The Mourning Forest (Mogari no mori), which told the story of a carer at a nursing home who befriends a man suffering from dementia.
Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris launched the 12-day festival on Wednesday but is not part of the competition for Cannes' prestigious awards that are to be handed out on May 22.
In her third film, Maiwenn charts the lives of the child protection unit with an impressive cast including Nicolas Duvauchelle, Karin Viard and Jeremie Elkaim acting out a series of real life cases.
The 10-member unit is a very closely knit group as its members go about the business of interviewing the child victims of crimes and their suspected perpetrators, celebrating their successes, sharing their personal crises and arguing about politics.
Unlike the films from Maiwenn, Kawase and Ramsay, Leigh's Sleeping Beauty does not have a strong sense of place with very few references to link it the city (Sydney) where it is set.
Billed as an erotic fairytale, the secret world of sex (and the characters built around it) that novelist-turned filmmaker Leigh seeks to depict in her movie could in reality have been in any city or country in the world.
Speaking at a press conference, Leigh said her main character, Lucy 'puts herself out there and tests herself in all sorts of ways.'
But in a sense it is Ramsay's movie that breaks a real taboo in society by exploring the story of a mother with a ambivalent relationship with her child.
'I think the idea of a mother not loving her son is one of the last taboos, and something people don't want to talk about,' said co- scriptwriter Rory Stewart Kinnear.
Kevin's life in school is virtually not touched on in the film. What Ramsay wants to say with her film is that it was his dysfunctional family that drove him to commit such terrible crimes.
Swinton says she believes Kevin thinks that his parents are faking being parents. 'He wants them to connect with him,' she said. 'He is super bright and that can be (a) lonely place.'
The colour of red is interwoven throughout the film with Ramsay using strong visual language and music to tell the story of the mother's traumatized life after Kevin's murderous action.
This is not the first time that Ramsay has portrayed stories about people who suddenly find their lives turned upside down by unexpected and tragic deaths. It was the case in her two previous features - Ratcatcher and Morvern Callar.
But in We Need to Talk About Kevin seems at times to border on being a horror story as Ramsay sets out to build the film's storyline towards Kevin's ultimate rampage. Ramsay described her movie as 'a psychological horror film.'
However, she insisted: 'There's no violence in this film. You only see aftermath. Every Hollywood movie is more violent than this.'
Based on a best-selling book by Lionel Shriver, Ramsay's movie also stars top US actor John C Reilly as the father and 18-year-old newcomer Ezra Miller as Kevin.
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